Reading response to “Notes on ‘Camp'”

Sontag often uses the word artifice to describe one aspect of camp as a whole. Reading through the essay the word usage conveys an image of richness without having to be proper. By Sontag’s definition, camp is exaggerated and artificial in a way that I can correlate with candy that is too sweet or things that might be considered ‘tacky’. Sontag writes, ‘Nothing in nature can be campy’ which reinforces my correlation of camp and things that are artificial, usually brightly colored to make up for its lack of natural qualities. Because of this, I found Sontag’s description of camp to be effective in evoking the image of camp in my mind as well as driving home the points of camp being exaggerated as well as a force of counter culture.

Sontag frequently brings up the idea of ‘good taste’ and how camp is a betrayal of these good tastes. Sontag’s interpretation of camp goes as follows, ‘Camp sees everything is quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.”‘ Sontag’s word usage here makes sense of the idea of camp as this word choice brings images of a group of people that only have a faint idea of what a woman might be but tasked with creating a visual representation of this concept which is the imagery I believe Sontag was aiming for. The idea of a woman through the concept of camp would most likely produce a woman in the most extreme sense of the word, heavy with makeup, hair and adorned in a gown therefore pushing the idea of ‘woman’ as well as femininity to the max.

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One Response to Reading response to “Notes on ‘Camp'”

  1. Brian Dunlop says:

    Very lovely response to Sontag’s essay. However, there is one part of our response, in which I will have to disagree (at least partially): You write, “The idea of a woman through the concept of camp would most likely produce a woman in the most extreme sense of the word, heavy with makeup, hair and adorned in a gown therefore pushing the idea of ‘woman’ as well as femininity to the max.”
    What I disagree with is that females in “campy art” don’t necessarily have to be heavily painted with make-up or wearing any specific outfit like a gown. However, they (females) will if the scene or setting calls for it. Their femininity would in deed come out in their dress as well as their behavior. A female in a camp piece can just as well be wearing a business suit, but usually they would acquire some masculine characteristics as well to match the patriarchal notion that the business world is a place populated by shrewd men.
    What you describe as a feminine character being gussied up in dress and make-up would more closely resemble how camp treats transsexuals. If you’ve ever watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’d have a good idea of what I’m referring to (a la Dr. Frank N. Furter).
    But you’re on point with the artificial theme of camp, how it lessens the suspension of disbelief, as when all know that it’s an engaging show and just a “show,” and some of us enjoy it all the more that way. Camp is a universe onto itself, unlike nature, but still very much inspired by it (only exaggerated and fabulously redone), creating a unique atmosphere all its own. It brings out the extravagant, often celebrating the unusual, and rose-tints our experience. It can make a low-budget film or play into a sprawling masterpiece enjoyed and recreated for generations on end. What power this thing called “camp” has!

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